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Russia: Gagarin deserves a better fate

It is not common that the IP story unravelsin sequels; however sometimes it has to happen. The December 2013/January 2014 issue of Managing IP carried an article which paid tribute to Gagarin's daughter who protected her right to the name of her father. The judgment of the IP Court obliged the Patent Office to cancel the controversial mark. The Patent Office and the applicant (Gagarin entertainment centre) appealed the judgment of the IP court.

The Presidium of IP court then cancelled the judgment of the first instance IP court and issued a ruling sending down the case for consideration again by the first instance court.

Hence the legal protection of trade mark 422186 remains in force so far. It is interesting to follow the argumentation of the cassation instance of the court. It noted that the first instance court had started with the assumption that the registered trade mark could be associated with the name of the first cosmonaut – Yury Gagarin. In so doing, the first instance court did not pay attention to the fact that the word element of the trade mark was used as a geographical name, it pointed to the place of rendering services that should be associated with the location of the trade centre, that is Gagarin Square and Gagarin tunnel. Besides, the first instance court did not clarify how the controversial trade mark violated the rights of Gagarin's daughter.

The final judgment is yet to come. However some observations on the ruling of the Presidium of the IP Court can be made. In my opinion the judgment of the first instance IP court was correct. The Presidium of the IP Court was too formal in its decision to overturn the judgment of colleagues (though the fact that there may be different judgments within the ambit of the same court speaks in favour of its objectivity).

While examining the case, the situation with the Gagarin Trade Center should be considered on a broader scale. The name of Yury Gagarin is associated in the whole world with the breakthrough of humankind into outer space. It spelled the onset of the new era of interplanetary journeys. Indeed, there are other persons named Gagarin in Russia but they are unnoticeable against the background of Yury Gagarin. The square and the tunnel in Moscow are named after Yury Gagarin where also an impressive monument showing Yury Gagarin striving to the stars was erected. Hence the trade centre, though circumstantially, still rides on the popularity of Gagarin's name. One can also understand Gagarin's daughter whose father was never associated with commerce or entertainment. The naming of a trade centre after Gagarin diminishes his immaculate image. Indeed, the world hero deserves a better fate.

Vladimir Biriulin

Gorodissky & Partners
Russia 129010, Moscow
B. Spasskaya Str
25, stroenie 3
Tel: +7 495 937 6116 / 6109
Fax: +7 495 937 6104 / 6123


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